MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

4. Further Rise of the Revolution. All-Russian Political Strike of October 1905. Retreat of Tsardom. The Tsar's Manifesto. Rise of the Soviets of Workers' Deputies

By the autumn of 1905 the revolutionary movement had swept the whole country and gained tremendous momentum.

On September 19 a printers' strike broke out in Moscow. It spread to St. Petersburg and a number of other cities. In Moscow itself the printers' strike was supported by the workers in other industries and developed into a general political strike.

In the beginning of October a strike started on the Moscow-Kazan Railway. Within two days it was joined by all the railwaymen of the Moscow railway junction and soon all the railways of the country were in the grip of the strike. The postal and telegraph services came to a standstill. In various cities of Russia the workers gathered at huge meetings and decided to down tools. The strike spread to factory after factory, mill after mill, city after city, and region after region. The workers were joined by the minor employees, students and intellectuals lawyers, engineers and doctors.

The October political strike became an all-Russian strike which embraced nearly the whole country, including the most remote districts, and nearly all the workers, including the most backward strata. About one million industrial workers alone took part in the general political strike, not counting the large number of railwaymen, postal and telegraph employees and others. The whole life of the country came to a standstill. The government was paralysed.

The working class headed the struggle of the masses against the autocracy.

The Bolshevik slogan of a mass political strike had borne fruit. The October general strike revealed the power and might of the proletarian movement and compelled the mortally frightened tsar to issue his Manifesto of October 17, 1905. This Manifesto promised the people "the unshakable foundations of civil liberty: real inviolability of person, and freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association." It promised to convene a legislative Duma and to extend the franchise to all classes of the population.

Thus, Bulygin's deliberative Duma was swept away by the tide of revolution. The Bolshevik tactics of boycotting the Bulygin Duma proved to have been right.

Nevertheless, the Manifesto of October 17 was a fraud on the people, a trick of the tsar to gain some sort of respite in which to lull the credulous and to win time to rally his forces and then to strike at the revolution. In words the tsarist government promised liberty, but actually it granted nothing substantial. So far, promises were all that the workers and peasants had received from the government. Instead of the broad political amnesty which was expected, on October 21 amnesty was granted to only a small section of political prisoners. At the same time, with the object of dividing the forces of the people, the government engineered a number of sanguinary Jewish pogroms, in which many thousands of people perished; and in order to crush the revolution it created police-controlled gangster organizations known as the League of the Russian People and the League of Michael the Archangel. These organizations, in which a prominent part was played by reactionary landlords, merchants, priests, and semi-criminal elements of the vagabond type, were christened by the people "Black-Hundreds." The Black-Hundreds, with the support of the police, openly manhandled and murdered politically advanced workers, revolutionary intellectuals and students, burned down meeting places and fired upon assemblies of citizens. These so far were the only results of the tsar's Manifesto.

There was a popular song at the time which ran :

"The tsar caught fright, issued a Manifesto:
Liberty for the dead, for the living arrest."

The Bolsheviks explained to the masses that the Manifesto of October 17 was a trap. They branded the conduct of the government after the promulgation of the Manifesto as provocative. The Bolsheviks called the workers to arms, to prepare for armed uprising.

The workers set about forming fighting squads with greater energy than ever. It became clear to them that the first victory of October 17, wrested by the general political strike, demanded of them further efforts, the continuation of the struggle for the overthrow of tsardom.

Lenin regarded the Manifesto of October 17 as an expression of a certain temporary equilibrium of forces: the proletariat and the peasantry, having wrung the Manifesto from the tsar, were still not strong enough to overthrow tsardom, whereas tsardom was no longer able to rule by the old methods alone and had been compelled to give a paper promise of "civil liberties" and a "legislative" Duma.

In those stormy days of the October political strike, in the fire of the struggle against tsardom, the revolutionary creative initiative of the working-class masses forged a new and powerful weapon the Soviets of Workers' Deputies.

The Soviets of Workers' Deputies which were assemblies of delegates from all mills and factories represented a type of mass political organization of the working class which the world had never seen before. The Soviets that first arose in 1905 were the prototype of the Soviet power which the proletariat, led by the Bolshevik Party, set up in 1917. The Soviets were a new revolutionary form of the creative initiative of the people. They were set up exclusively by the revolutionary sections of the population, in defiance of all laws and prescripts of tsar-dom. They were a manifestation of the independent action of the people who were rising to fight tsardom.

The Bolsheviks regarded the Soviets as the embryo of revolutionary power. They maintained that the strength and significance of the Soviets would depend solely on the strength and success of the uprising.

The Mensheviks regarded the Soviets neither as embryonic organs of revolutionary power nor as organs of uprising. They looked upon the Soviets as organs of local self-government, in the nature of democratized municipal government bodies.

In St. Petersburg, elections to the Soviet of Workers' Deputies took place in all the mills and factories on October 13 (26, New Style) 1905. The first meeting of the Soviet was held that night. Moscow followed St. Petersburg in forming a Soviet of Workers' Deputies.

The St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies, being the Soviet of the most important industrial and revolutionary centre of Russia, the capital of the tsarist empire, ought to have played a decisive role in the Revolution of 1905. However, it did not perform its task, owing to its bad, Menshevik leadership. As we know, Lenin had not yet arrived in St. Petersburg; he was still abroad. The Mensheviks took advantage of Lenin's absence to make their way into the St. Petersburg Soviet and to seize hold of its leadership. It was not surprising under such circumstances that the Mensheviks Khrustalev, Trotsky, Parvus and others managed to turn the St. Petersburg Soviet against the policy of an uprising. Instead of bringing the soldiers into close contact with the Soviet and linking them up with the common struggle, they demanded that the soldiers be withdrawn from St. Petersburg. The Soviet, instead of arming the workers and preparing them for an uprising, just marked time and was against preparations for an uprising.

Altogether different was the role played in the revolution by the Moscow Soviet of Workers' Deputies. From the very first the Moscow Soviet pursued a thoroughly revolutionary policy. The leadership of the Moscow Soviet was in the hands of the Bolsheviks. Thanks to them, side by side with the Soviet of Workers' Deputies, there arose in Moscow a Soviet of Soldiers' Deputies. The Moscow Soviet became an organ of armed uprising.

In the period, October to December 1905, Soviets of Workers' Deputies were set up in a number of large towns and in nearly all the working-class centres. Attempts were made to organize Soviets of Soldiers' and Sailors' Deputies and to unite them with the Soviets of Workers' Deputies. In some localities Soviets of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies were formed.

The influence of the Soviets was tremendous. In spite of the fact that they often arose spontaneously, lacked definite structure and were loosely organized, they acted as a governmental power. Without legal authority, they introduced freedom of the press and an 8-hour working day. They called upon the people not to pay taxes to the tsarist government. In some cases they confiscated government funds and used them for the needs of the revolution.

DECEMBER ARMED UPRISING. DEFEAT OF THE UPRISING. RETREAT OF THE REVOLUTION. FIRST STATE DUMA. FOURTH (UNITY) PARTY CONGRESS